Postal reform arriving via snail mail

A $5.1 billion net loss ordinarily would be a major incentive for a company to make some adjustments. But it appears unlikely that the U.S. Postal Service will see any major changes any time soon despite announcing that red ink Friday.

That's not because the postal service's leaders don't think changes are needed; it is that their hands are tied. They can't act without Congress's approval, and while the leaders could fairly be said to have begged for new legislation, lawmakers are a long way from agreeing on any legislation to overhaul the post office.

"Controllable income will be hard to sustain in the coming years absent substantive changes to our business model and, as you know, this requires legislative change," Postmaster General Megan Brennan told reporters Friday. The postal service reported net losses of $5 billion in fiscal 2013 and $5.5 billion in 2014.

Neither congressional committee with jurisidiction over the postal service has any legislation on the front-burner. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, urged lawmakers Friday to back a modernization bill he introduced in September. A Republican source on the committee who declined to speak on the record said they are giving Carper's bill a look, but so far it has no co-sponsors and no hearings scheduled.

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Carper is hopeful that Friday's announcement will spur Congress to act. "Today's report makes it clear that, despite a growing revenue stream, the U.S. Postal Service continues to suffer significant losses that threaten its future," he said. "I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, stakeholders and the Postal Service to refine this legislation to right the Postal Service and ensure its viability long into the future."

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